Artists of the Year
by Gina Arnold
It's a sad commentary on the unholy state of the current pop zeitgeist--a place where one frequently hears the obnoxious doings of rock personalities like Hole's Courtney Love and Oasis's Liam Gallagher described as "refreshing"--that admiring or lauding Eddie Vedder is considered totally unhip.
Well, call me a hickoid, but this year I found Vedder's activities particularly inspiring. In January, the guy rented three hours of satellite airtime on which he played his favorite records, talked to friends about politics and feminism, let some really cool bands play live, and said "fuck" a lot. In April, he toured America in the back of a van as drummer for his wife's band Hovercraft and singer for Mike Watt. In June, he and his band Pearl Jam attempted to launch a stadium tour which bypassed the corporate ogre Ticketmaster. And in November, during some make-up concert dates in Utah and California, Vedder took a low-wattage radio station on the road with him in order to broadcast late-night pirate radio shows, where he played more cool records and spoke directly to fans by phone. (The station still operates some nights in Seattle.)
But that's not all. This autumn, I was privileged enough to see my favorite band--the Fastbacks--open for Pearl Jam at both the Delta Center in Utah and at San Jose's Spartan Stadium, thus playing the biggest (and best paid) gigs of their lives by a factor of 30,000 or something. The evenings--which were later characterized by the Fastbacks' tearful Kim Warnick as "awesome"--came courtesy of Vedder, a richly deserved reward for a long, hard and essentially thankless career. The Fastbacks played the show of their lives. But it was Pearl Jam who were really roaring, blistering, holding the huge crowd rapt in the firm grip of what passes for real religious ecstasy in America, just pouring it on out. Watching it from the top, you could see this sea of shining faces, singing along, surging forward, positively praying--a vast expanse of boys all with their lips parted, hands in the air, emitting hot waves of love out of their eyes and their mouths and their bodies. Musically, Pearl Jam are able to transcend the somewhat moribund genre they so perfectly characterize by injecting it with a kind of spiritual purity that resonates loudly, especially in stadiums like that one. And Ed himself is a symbol of personal integrity whose virtues somehow seem apparent to the sea of kids in the audience. Simply put, he radiates generosity and kindness, two things one doesn't see much of in the music business, but which would be nice to see more of--in music, and in life.
Gina Arnold is a Bay Area writer.
THE BROADS AT BUST
by Julie Caniglia
Last spring I was up all night devouring Bust's "My Life As A Girl" issue, and, licking my fingers the next morning, wrote a breathless fan letter/ thank-you to its coeditors, who go by the names Betty Boob and Celina Hex (pictured), and art director Areola. Yes, it was as good as if not better than sex, and judging from the letters they print--a confetti shower of superlatives, subscription checks, and vows of eternal devotion--lots of other people think so, too.
Bust burst forth about two and a half years ago, and has been filling out quite nicely ever since. Every issue has a theme, which inevitably allows for certain timeless topics--namely, sex, relationships, and, unavoidably, men: thus, the current "Men We Love" issue (the love being generously and pragmatically seasoned with hate, disgust, scorn, and disappointment).
This zine is an essential guide for women negotiating a new kind of adulthood, where uncertainties and pitfalls are as plentiful as the delights and opportunities created by feminism. Most of its writers are older women, married women, and mothers who are not fans of Ladies' Home Journal, but are primarily white and of a certain means, background, and age--too old to be riot grrrls, too young to be first- or even second-generation feminists. Not trying to be all things to all people is part of its success (and part of what makes zines zines), but nevertheless Bust has caught the fancy of a remarkably broad readership. Plenty of guys have learned that Bust can provide them with the best sense of what modern women are about short of eavesdropping. And just as older women took a shine to Sassy, it seems that plenty of teens are turning on to Bust (a life-saver in light of Sassy's sissification). It's undoubtedly feminist--the F-word and its various prefixes get occasionally tossed around--but such tags are too boring. Bust is most successful at expressing a spirit, rather than an agenda or ideology.
With its growing popularity and page counts, I'd make a case for calling Bust a truly alternative magazine. It's featuring more nationally known writers and well-chosen celebrity interviews (but please don't quit with all the great articles by pseudonymous writers like Christy Love!), and even chain bookstores now stock multiple copies. It would seemingly be time for the "sell-out" whining to commence, but I say, all the more power to these bodacious babes. Look for their "Bad Girl" issue in February.
Julie Caniglia is Associate Arts Editor of City Pages.
by Greil Marcus
Random headlines and news items on an office wall: a 1990 report on Romanian elections, featuring the Barking Dog Party, running just above a small ad, "GORBACHEV T-SHIRT DESIGN CONTEST WIN $100 MAKE HISTORY"; "RUSSIAN RIGHTISTS GROUPS UNITE, DEMAND A CZAR" ("The Pamyat Union for Ethnically Proportional Representation called for the KGB intelligence agency to wage war on Jews and Freemasons"); a letter to the editor on the occasion of German reunification from one Joseph O. Hedgpeth of Carmichael, California ("The German nation is reborn! Long live the Fourth Reich! All Germans everywhere are touching the beach of Heaven.... And if fate decrees that there will be a return engagement on the home field, then what will be will be"); and, in the midst of this randomly assembled Europe-in-Flames gallery, the only item that was not pinned up as a joke, the item that turned the jokes sour: "A New Iron Fist Rises in Europe," by Frank Viviano.
It was 3 a.m. in Rome, March 28, 1994, and Viviano had just filed a report on the landslide victory of Italy's new rightist coalition: "I found myself walking the streets of a nightmare. The Via de Corso, Piazza Navona, Via Nazionale--the heart of the lovely, ancient city--had become the playground of black-shirted young men. Astride roaring motorcycles and packed into cars, they waved fascist banners, gave the open-palmed salute and chanted 'Duce!' 'Duce!' 'Duce!' into the Roman night." "Will the Italians once again spin the wheel for the rest of Europe?" Viviano asked. "There is such a thing as real fascism, and it is loose in the streets of Europe today, everywhere that the iron fist has recovered its appeal as the primary instrument of governance."
This is what we have learned to read as extremist or paranoid writing, but Viviano--48, from Detroit, a veteran of the Michigan Daily and the Pacific News Service, author of Dispatches from the Pacific Century--is a foreign correspondent for a major American daily (make that as Hitchcockian, as Joel McCrea-Herbert Marshall-George Sanders, as 1930s as you like). Viviano's work suggests Eric Ambler's pre-World War II Mr. Not-My-Fault-in-Fascist-Jeopardy thrillers (Viviano doesn't know them) as strongly as they do postwar Italian neo-realist cinema (The Bicycle Thief, Umberto D, and Open City are his favorites). Never injecting himself into a story, yet achieving a mood of suspense, of clandestinity in the public square (someone is asking the ordinary people in Viviano's stories the plain questions for which they have such terrible answers), Viviano gets flesh and blood into everyday newsprint. In his hands, words mean what they say. A fascist is a fascist, never a "neo-fascist"--and think how comfortingly that prefix softens the hardness of the real word, bleeds its real history right out of it. Events are at once tiny and huge: Suffering is the possession of an individual who is speaking and the common tongue of a civilization that is coming apart.
Whether writing about Mafia trials in Italy or women organizing for themselves in Russia, Viviano maps a Europe that is groundless--a place that offers nothing solid beneath one's feet, and a place that no longer has a rational explanation for itself, and may not want one. His stories come every week or so--more familiar, closer to home, each time--but only in the San Francisco Chronicle, which is not an insurmountable obstacle in the Twin Cities. You can look into Shinder's; you can log onto the Chronicle's Internet edition, The Gate, or call for this fine paper to find room for Viviano in its own pages. Atrocity reports you can get anywhere; history as it creeps down real streets, like tendrils in a Bodysnatchers movie, is something else.
Greil Marcus is a Bay Area writer whose most recent book is The Dustbin of History.
by Will Hermes
The thing with Bill Kubeczko is this: He always seems to have a cold. His wife Mag will tell you that he does sleep from time to time--but it's clear the man who runs the Cedar Cultural Centre is on a mission. Nursing the sniffles at home simply checks in at around #32 on his list of priorities. As he assures his friends, he'll get around to it soon.
Since taking the helm of what was essentially a sinking ship in 1993, Kubeczko has transformed the Cedar from a mismanaged, moribund performance hall into an internationally recognized world music club. It hasn't been easy. First there was the massive debt inherited from the previous regime. Then the collapsed air-conditioning system. Then two office robberies in one week. Then a mortally wounded heating-oil tank. But through it all, he never lost sight of his priority: Bringing to the Twin Cities the best musicians from around the globe, and making them feel as comfortable as possible given his limited resources. In the past that's meant putting artists up at his home (some, like British guitar great John Renbourne, for days at a time), showing them the sights (like spending an afternoon with Mali's road-weary Ali Farka Toure at Minnehaha Falls), or dealing with disasters (driving to nearly every music shop in town when the musicians in Brazilian superstar Marisa Monte's band arrived to find their delicate traditional instruments destroyed in shipping). Even the little things--flowers onstage for Canada's McGarrigle Sisters, a favorite red wine for Irish folkies Altan--get done religiously, the idea being that the best concert experiences happen when everyone feels at home. Judging from this year's embarrassment of musical riches, it's been working.
Which doesn't mean Kubeczko's sleeping more. Finances for the nonprofit Cedar remain perilously close-to-the-bone despite full houses and stepped-up fundraising efforts. But like the artists he presents, Kubeczko has been engaging the local community. Abetted by a crew of dedicated volunteers, growing audiences, and grateful musicians (the local improv phenomena Eight Head recently gave back their performance fee to help support the club), the guy with the coffee and the Robitussin keeps on keeping on while keeping the whole thing together. And to say the very least, there's an art to that.
by Caroline Palmer
Representing a panorama of dance, music, theater, poetry, visual artistry and philosophy, the members of Sirius B have pooled their considerable talents to achieve empowerment through collaborative action. In creating a venue to respond to a country which judges by demographic, the group has found one way to give voice to African American men. While October's Million Man March brought this issue to the national table, collectives like Sirius B hope to inspire a continuing awareness--and change--in their own communities and beyond.
Organized by Keith Antar Mason, cofounder of Los Angeles's Hittite Empire performance group, Sirius B sprang to life this year through a residency sponsored by Intermedia Arts, Walker Art Center, and Pillsbury House. Its namesake is the companion star to the brilliant Sirius, a celestial body whose appearance every 50 years is celebrated in several African cultures. Sirius B took this reverence for ritual as a starting point in constructing a context for the past, present and future of the African American community. They found profound encouragement not only from Mason and the Hittites, but also local elders who continue to lend their help to this day.
Out of these efforts came a gripping saga performed on the Walker stage. The Punic Wars evoked the rites of passage both endured and engendered by African American men, from the opening montage in the bowels of a slave ship, through the racially biased court system presided over by "Judge Remus Turnus Thomas," to the climactic chants of "We have to stop killing ourselves" and "No Justice. No Peace. Freedom."
Mason returned home, but the process he began continues. Sirius B is currently headquartered at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis, and finished out the year with a residency in Northfield. To quote GambaHondo's parting words from The Punic Wars, "Rise up Black Man and make what is wrong in this world right..." Sirius B's work has only just begun.
Caroline Palmer is a Minneapolis writer.
by Dara Moskowitz
Poor Djuna Barnes. A writer so forgotten that only academics recognize her name, but whose Nightwood was praised as one of the best novels of the century by T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, and William Burroughs. Perhaps Barnes's obscurity has something to do with the violence T. S. Eliot wreaked on that great text, cutting 5,000 words' worth of homosexual references and general ribaldry (Barnes writes the most elegant scatology) to pacify the censors (though, in a climate that outright banned Ulysses and Sons and Lovers, Eliot's compromise must have seemed necessary).
Nightwood is the story of the troubled loves of heartsick Robin--her husband Felix, her true love Nora, and the all too convenient Jenny--as told to the proud, gay, alcoholic, self-pitying, and frequently brilliant Dr. Matthew O'Connor. It's a story of sex, self-hatred, frustrated desire, mystery, and vast beauty. Dalkey Archive Press and Editor Cheryl Plumb deserve champagne and roses for undertaking the difficult task of restoring Nightwood to its pre-Eliot version. They've given us a book that is funnier and stronger than we knew, which retains all the exquisiteness of the original, yet is graced with an American footlooseness that makes the book feel as modern as it no doubt did when it was Modern. Hopefully, nearly 60 years after its debut, Nightwood will find the audience it deserves; thoughtful readers will find the difficult but supremely rewarding book they deserve; and someone somewhere will send the editors of the Dalkey Archive those flowers.
Dara Moskowitz is a Minneapolis writer.
by Andrew K. Kim
Today, on the corner of Franklin and Chicago in south Minneapolis, where once a liquor store stood next to a detox center and Four Winds School, there's a bold and graceful archway into the Phillips Neighborhood. Five stone mosaic pathways, representing the cultures of the community, meet at the arch and open into a performance and gathering space surrounded by four large, richly sculpted concrete benches which will soon be covered with bright tile mosaics.
The Phillips Neighborhood Gateways Project is the work of artist Rafala Green, several mentor artists, about 76 teenagers from the neighborhood, and some mighty grassroots organizing. Green challenged the kids to put some stake in this corner, to be a part of something large and permanent, to be heard. They accepted the invitation, rolled up their sleeves, and set off on the long task of sorting and setting tons of stones and tiles, one piece at a time.
South Minneapolis is much more than the fear fed by the 10 o'clock news. The Gateways Project stands as proof of what people working together can do, calmly stating: There is beauty here. Go and see for yourself. Park the car, walk on the pathways, pass through the arch, and sit still for a moment. Let Rafala Green and her crew surprise you with something close to hope.
Andrew K. Kim is a Minneapolis writer.
by Chuck Eddy
Any Latina who could inspire the biggest Latin dance craze since the lambada, not to mention get every libertine in the Spanish-speaking world to serenade her, must be an artist, a goddess on a mountaintop burning like a silver flame. You need to go back to Roxanne Roxanne in 1985, maybe even G-L-O-R-I-A or the woman Hey Joe shot down in 1966, to find anybody so popular. (I'm surprised nobody wrote a "Hey Joe"/"Macarena" hybrid called "Selena.")
The U.S. Top 40 smash and definitive "Macarena" was performed by Spain's flamenco duo Los Del Rio, then remixed with gringo words by Miami disc jockeys the Bayside Boys--giddy-giggly teasy-cheesy flirt-disco girl-squeaking contrasted with a deep hairy-chested salsero chorus old enough to be the girl's dads. "They all want me/They can't have me/So they all come and dance beside me." I put it on a survival tape I made for my amazingly dimpled part-Mexican tomboy buddy Jennifer (who I think Courtney Love wrote "Jennifer's Body" about) after she booted her no-good boyfriend out, just like the real Macarena.
Back on 7-inch/45 vinyl with Scatman John's over-the-top hokum-jazz stutter-rap novelty "Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop)," it was the liveliest single I heard in 1995. ("Scatman" was an even funner stutter than Elastica's "Stutter," which was an even funner penis-disability song than Gillette's "Short Dick Man." Was this a great year or what?) In 1989, Ed Morales worried in the Village Voice that the lambada might "kill any understanding of world music by making it into a Big Mac"--but personally, I'd rather eat a Big Mac (arena) than read National Geographic (what "real" world music usually reminds me of).
Los Del Mar's Havana-via-Montreal "Macarena" version wasn't as hot a tamale as their "Oye Como Va" on Macarena, one of my favorite 1995 albums, but it topped Canada's charts anyhow. My friend Phil, who substitute-teaches grade school in Toronto, was supposed to dance to it at some student function, but he was too shy and just flapped his arms around a bit instead. Other renditions I've heard--by norteño/tejano stud Mazz, Argentina-or-Ibiza nobodies Majo & Co., Mexico tequila-poppers Mestizzo--are, um, hard to tell apart. When I visited Mexico City in November, Monica Frias invited me out dancing with some pals for her 27th birthday, but when I asked if we're gonna do the Macarena, she said "No! I hate that!" Constanza Garcia of Sony Discos told me that in October she'd just learned the simple dance steps, but in November she went to Italy, and they do it differently there. Eventually I hope to work up the nerve to ask her to teach it to me. I also wouldn't mind meeting Macarena herself someday.
Chuck Eddy is a Philadelphia writer.
KARI MARGOLIS AND TONY BROWN
by Carolyn Petrie
In big-business theater, lip-synching passes for live performance these days. But camped out in the dark recesses of Minneapolis's sex-and-warehouse district is a group of artists who believe that every muscle of the human body and every cell of the brain can be channeled into their entertainment. In a year when pop culture spawned some really stupid vampires, Margolis Brown Company one-upped Hollywood by creating two of the coolest, silliest, sexiest night creatures that ever grew fangs. Vidpires!, a brilliant merger of dance, music, techno-magic, and commentary on the ironies of love in the modern age, was nothing short of spellbinding.
Margolis and Brown have their bases covered: she, the driven choreographer and teacher of a technique passed down from mentor Etienne Decroux; he, the technician and image creator who brings their ideas to the stage. The two have shared a common passion for the all-inclusive genre they call "movement theater" for more than 20 years now, from the streets of Paris to New York and finally the Twin Cities, where they've made a cozy home for themselves and 30 eager, talented students.
Snippets from their next project, an examination of immigrant culture called Vanishing Point, have been seen this year at the Fringe Festival and Minnesota Dances, as well as at an open house that was held last month at their studio. Scheduled to run early next year at the Southern Theater, it promises to be as intriguing as every move they've made on that stage so far.
Carolyn Petrie is a Minneapolis writer.
by Britt Robson
Just one year ago, Boy George was generally regarded as a chickenshit androgynist, cocaine casualty, or oldies curio. But in 1995 he stormed out of the closet into a brilliantly self-directed three-ring media circus. After dishing up the names of everybody he'd ever fucked or snorted with in his trashy, trenchant autobiography, Take It Like A Man, George unleashed Cheapness and Beauty, which, a quarter-century after Stonewall, is the first CD that fully integrates the multifaceted emotions of gay life with compelling commercial music. A piquant marmalade of roiling glam-thrash guitars and poignant pop hooks, it contains a half-dozen tunes that should be hits and at least a couple that will make you cry. It's the kind of brash epiphany that can only occur when a disgraced artist peels away the bullshit and relies on gut instinct because there is nothing left to lose. It's the best record of 1995.
The trifecta was complete when Boy George hit First Avenue on the last day of November. Uniting a crowd that spanned the spectrum of sexual preferences--from drag queens to frat jocks, with an ecstatically queer vibe presiding--George and his pompadoured band delivered a joyous concert of kick-ass music and socio-political hedonism. From the bawdy double-entendre of a throbbing "Bang A Gong" to the nuance of an acoustic "You Can't Always Get What You Want," the covers were shrewdly contextualized. But the highlights for me revolved around two song pairings. The first was preceded by a bitchy, dead-on critique of Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military, which led into the hilarious spoof "G.I. Josephine," followed by "Unfinished Business," an unflinching account of the psychological costs of living in the closet. With the second pair, George finally appeased the Culture Clubbers in the crowd by inducing a swooning singalong to "Karma Chameleon," then followed up with the tune's gorgeous, updated companion, "Same Thing In Reverse," climaxing with the lyric, "Do I love him/Yes I love him/So don't question my affection/This is not some damn affliction/It's just love in contradiction." (Britt Robson)
Britt Robson is Associate Editor of City Pages.
by Dave Marsh
Cruse's Stuck Rubber Baby was one of the most satisfying books of any kind written in 1995, and the only graphic novel I've ever read (and I've read a lot) that succeeds in finding and keeping the pace and tone of good fiction. Cruse's protagonist, a closeted (to all including himself) Southern gay white man coming of age amidst the tumult of the civil rights movement, certainly draws on the artist's personal history. But he doesn't wallow in it, which immediately separates what he's doing from the likes
of Spiegelman's Maus and Pekar's Our Cancer Year. More important, Cruse uses the facts to create an entirely viable world, in which petty decisions and happenstance can have consequences as far-reaching as Robertson Davies's Deptford snowball or a mismatched marriage in Dickens. The art is excellent, the sexual politics more complicated
than predictable, the role of music profound. It's
also funny as hell when it wants to be, especially about the vagaries of Southern culture, and the subtleties of family psychology in the deployment of racism and sexism (and the fight against them) are brilliantly illumined.
Dave Marsh is editor of Rock & Rap Confidential
by Michael Tortorello
January 6, 1995, Wall Street, 3:00 a.m. El Gato and I began outlining our fantasy campaign of political assassinations in a rusted-out Chevy. My list of public enemies marked for death was heavy on socially deviant public officials and fundamentalist cross-burners; El Gato, shrewdly, favored a reign of terror on CEOs. We both maintained that not voting for the RepubliCrats would constitute its own vote, that our elected representatives would piss their pants at the deafening roar of people doing nothing. The donkey and the elephant would consume each other, the lion would sleep with the lamb, etc. We were just a couple of chickenshit boys, born under the Sign of the Nixon, who believed that the system could not be salvaged before it went straight to hell, and that the faster it went there, the better.
The Unabomber--and his deadlier paramilitary colleagues--took our campaign out of the realm of the imaginary, revealing to El Gato and me just how ass-backwards we had been all along. He sits in some basement in Northern California playing Mr. Science, forging his own screws and bolts for maximum anonymity, composing his loopy, Luddite manifesto. He ropes the fourth estate into publishing it, then takes early retirement. While in the foreground, disgruntled veterans roam from gun show to gun show like the new Deadheads, reading Mein Kampf over the shortwave, buying fertilizer by the ton.
There was more suffering in our country this year than last, and there will be still more next. The bombs won't avert that; the waiting game hurts. The Unabomber's performance--words and deeds--changed the way I understand the political future and my place in it. If that's not art, I don't know what is.
Michael Tortorello is theater critic at City Pages.
by Terri Sutton
The quiet romancing, borne in slivered glances, in speaking silence and understatement, conjured a welcome subtlety from the screen. Still, I don't believe the audience welcomed a 200-year-old ghost for that spell alone. The lush period costuming (including the '90s Beverly Hills High excess of Clueless) captivated the eye, though it too was not essential. The astuteness with which Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility described a woman's precarious economic position must also be held a factor in their author's sudden popularity; again, I think that timely perspicacity only a secondary consideration. It seems to me that the key to this year's deceptively anachronistic Jane Austen revival is manners.
By that, I do not mean manners good or bad. There may be newspaper columnists and clergy who would see in Austen's elegant sallies and ripostes the possibility of a more "civilized" public discourse. But in Austen's books, and their 1995 film adaptations, nice language does not necessarily excite respectful attention or understanding. What a rigid code of manners does there is create a society where the gesture means everything, and actions--be they disguised well enough--need have no consequence. This world is remade new and victimless each day, according to the pronouncements of those with real, and thus concealed, power.
It's amusing to see Austen's resurrection foretold in the recent rise of a school of fantasy called "mannerism." These novels, as writer Michael Swanwick notes of Ellen Kurshner's Swordpoint, are driven by "the vision of a life without regrets... [where] all that matters is making a figure of oneself and winning the admiration of a scorned universe." The characters are doomed, like Austen's, to either rarified lives of empty greed or ungraceful tumbles into the messy reality of--if they're lucky--love, loss, and compassion. Those less blessed by fortune discover poverty, disease, virtual disappearance. And still the remaining players play on, accountable for nothing, spinning a bright web of words. Where, I ask you, is the fiction: in Austen's tales? Or in the world she has described far too well?
Terri Sutton is a Minneapolis writer and frequent contributor to City Pages.
by Josh Feit
Land redistribution? Interventionist economics? In 1995, anyone who could turn such concepts into sexy sound bites would have to be as witty as Mae West, as electrifying as John Lennon, and as handsome as Antonio Banderas. Enter Subcomandante Marcos--charismatic Mexican ski-masked avenger, international media star, and front man for the Zapatista rebels of Chiapas. Marcos disseminates sarcastic online memos, holds fabulously goofy press conferences, and has a 326-page treatise for sale in American record stores (Shadows of Tender Fury: The Letters and Communiqués of Subcomandante Marcos and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation). He's got bourgeois women swooning in Mexico City, intellectuals forming solidarity clubs in coffeeshops worldwide, and the Mexican army playing the part of the Keystone Kops (they botched a mission to capture him last February).
Marcos's knack for pop-culture timing led him to grant an exclusive interview to Vanity Fair (which dubbed him "Mexico's Poet Rebel") and has extended the Zapatistas' allotted 15 minutes into a truly revolutionary two-year performance art piece. Hosting mock political conventions, acting out scenes of military victory, and sending out "top-secret" communiqués on the World Wide Web, Marcos and his elusive band of 2,500 troops are staging a postmodern revolution in elegant defiance of Global Economy '95.
The dingbats in power are playing along, too. In March, the Chase-Manhattan Bank sent out a memo saying a U.S. bailout of Mexico's economy was dependent on Mexico's ability to eliminate the communist threat of the Zapatistas. A Mexican government spokesman made an inane, Cold War-style pronouncement that President Zedillo "sees Chiapas like a cancer. Either you treat it, or it will eat you." Meanwhile, Marcos was entertaining the masses. "We wear the ski masks for our own protection and because we are all so good-looking," he told a fawning press conference. Somebody give this guy a slot on Thursday nights.
Josh Feit is a Washington D.C. writer.
by Jim Walsh
Over the years, I've tried unsuccessfully to interview Pete Conway, the one-man band also known as Flour. Most recently, I called to talk to him about the three-night stand in early December at the 7th St. Entry that featured Flour and reunions of 2i, Man-Sized Action, and Rifle Sport, for whom Conway plays bass. But as has become our custom, he politely refused. "Could we not?" he said. "Because if you put it in the paper, then there might be a bunch of people there, and it'll just make it hard for the rest of us to get to the bar."
A little insight to this modesty can be found on the short liner note to Flour's 1994 record Fourth and Final: "Gold has been found in the sanctuary and the halls have become overrun with prospectors. It's time to go." In other words, the grassroots indie scenes of the '70s and '80s may have corrupted into "alternative rock," but Conway, as organizer of this intentionally intimate weekend, was intent on keeping it fun (first and foremost), and preserving such antiquated notions as "punk" and "community." In a recent interview Neil Young said, "Back in the '50s and '60s, rock & roll was 'big' but it was only 'big' to people who cared about it. Now it's big to people who don't care about it."
Well, what made this weekend special was that everyone who was there cared about it. There were no luxury boxes, celebrity murder trials, or mosh pits. It was small. Old friends came out of the woodwork and rubbed elbows with new fans. Flour, the band, was fantastic. And Rifle Sport capped the whole thing with a set that was as memorable as any ever turned in by any of their equally memorable cast of characters: Bill from Arcwelder, swinging his hair rock-deliriously over the monitor; bass goddess Amy Larson grinning from ear to ear; Conrad pounding a beer bottle on a speaker cabinet, demanding an encore. And a small pond of faces, beaming. Like they'd been starved for the shit.
When the band returned to the stage, it was still Rifle Sport, with their unassuming spiritual leader on bass, but all I could hear was Ben Folds crooning, "We can be happy underground."
Jim Walsh is the pop music critic for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and former City Pages Music Editor.
by Sarah Vowell
I'm irritated, believe me, that the best program on American public radio is the Canadian production "Sunday Morning." You'd think that red-blooded broadcasters from the land of Mark Twain and Muddy Waters would have a better grasp of agony and ecstasy than our squeaky-clean neighbors to the north. But all year long, on the same affiliates that otherwise serve up NPR's cold fish, the CBC program delivered potent versions of actual real life, from biblical wrath and suicidal guilt to brainy political analysis and the giddy pleasures of pop.
The program's host, Ian Brown, is artist of the year not because he maneuvered passionately through an international landscape of mystery novelists and wheat farmers and Led Zeppelin recordings, though he did just that. His ability to point out the window at the way things are makes him a good journalist--but it's his power to look inside his heart and call forth those unfashionable things called ideals that makes him a compelling artist.
An Anglo born and raised in Montreal, Brown's editorial on the eve of the Quebec referendum lurched back and forth between the personal (pee-wee hockey) and the world-historical (the French Revolution), turning into a swirling, desperate plea for the bilingual solidarity of his childhood, calling it "a decent, moral dream."
In this, the year when public discourse seemed hell-bent on replacing ideals only with the meanest sort of pathological goals, I drank coffee on Sunday mornings and let Citizen Brown remind me in a voice which wavered from glee to dread that there was still something to shoot for--something like the concept of Nation.
Sarah Vowell is a Chicago-based writer and a frequent contributor to City Pages.
by Ivan Kreilkamp
In a year of trivial pleasures and annoyances alike, just about the only pop artist producing what felt to me like work of major significance was PJ Harvey. I can't think of a recent year with a more obvious choice for best album: To Bring You My Love (Island) has enough depth, richness and power to overwhelm any competition. I saw her give a disappointingly brief and subdued performance two years ago; this year
she vamped in stiletto heels with a topknot ponytail swaying from side to side in front of a pleated velvet curtain, hypnotizing an audience who weren't sure if she was the snake-charmer or the snake.
From the title track through "C'Mon Billy" to "Send His Love to Me," To Bring You My Love bears witness to an emotional state born of intense longing and deprivation that most modern pop music won't touch with a 10-foot pole. Harvey's decision not to play guitar on this album is a significant loss, but she's turned her voice into an instrument of equal power and versatility: witness the guttural snarls of "Long Snake Moan"; the melancholy, brooding "Teclo"; the urgent pleading of "Send His Love to Me." Suffused in the blues sound of guitar and Hammond organ and in imagery of blood, water, birth, desire, To Bring You My Love is a gospel album in honor of some forgotten diety.
Ivan Kreilkamp is a writer based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
by Rob Nelson
I FIRST HEARD of Todd Haynes about four years ago, when he was cast as "The Queer and Dangerous Artist" for a network morning-show segment about the NEA dilemma. Paired onscreen with some pro-censorship/anti-NEA blowhard, and patronized by a host catering to the phobias of middle America, Haynes played against type by speaking gently and intelligently about Poison, his NEA-financed, Jean Genet-inspired meditation on stigma, struggle, cruelty, and difference. Who was the monstrous Other here? The blowhard ranted predictably about how taxpaying Americans shouldn't be funding movies that feature gay sex, no matter how artsy-fartsy the context; the filmmaker argued in favor of his voice by remaining as modest and calm as his film was audacious, angry, and "offensive."
This year, Haynes addressed the masses again with Safe. And again he fucked with expectations by treating the gravest of subjects--disease, depression, environmental decay--with a bitter tonic of formal restraint. Generically, Safe was a disease-of-the-week soaper crossed with a women's picture, yet by subverting both forms, it proved resistant to ad-copy raves and word-of-mouth pigeonholing: a sure sign of greatness, and the commercial kiss of death. Sure enough, when the film came out in mid-summer, the art-house crowd who flocked to formulaic drivel like The Usual Suspects stayed away in droves. There was no catharsis in Haynes's film. The heroine, Carol White (Julianne Moore), was a timid bourgeois homemaker who, diagnosed with environmental illness, seemed incapable of confronting the true sources of her condition: patriarchy and capitalism. And her climactic "victory" was even darker than death. Carol's eventual safe haven at a chemical-free retreat center resembled nothing so much as a bomb shelter, a place to disengage from the world while reciting uselessly comforting New Age clichés.
When I talked to Haynes around the time of Safe's release, he said that he placed his own hope for Carol in the middle of the film, when she's slumped in bed, staring at the symbols of her privilege and oppression, and wondering aloud, "Where am I?" No other filmmaker this year dared to pose such a vital, disruptive, or potentially empowering question. Indeed, we ought to wonder where we are at a time when expressions of pain are made to seem unnatural; when optimism-based methods of healing threaten to make us even sicker; when conditioned laziness has supplanted political energy; when placating "art" diverts attention from acting up; and when the supposed freedom of technology ends up relegating us to various plastic bubbles. By making a movie in which wasted lives are symptoms of a much larger disease, Todd Haynes singlehandedly cured the American cinema in 1995.
Rob Nelson is film critic at City Pages.
by Joan Freese
While Minneapolis-based choreographer Danny Buraczeski has worked steadily in professional dance since college, suddenly, at age 47, he's enjoying a meteoric ascension to national recognition as a bonafide jazz master. From his acclaimed debut at the Joyce Theater in New York, to a sold-out season at O'Shaughnessy Auditorium, tours of the east and west coasts, and a summertime run at the venerable Jacob's Pillow (during which extra performances were added to keep up with ticket demands), 1995 was chocked full of stellar occurrences for Buraczeski and his troupe of nine dancers. These successes were topped off with savory commissions from the Boston Ballet (the work, an abstract piece set to four jazz trumpet tunes, will debut in March 1996) and from the Library of Congress, which will pair Buraczeski with legendary jazz pianist Sir Roland Hanna. The latter honor is pretty much nonpareil in contemporary dance; the only other choreographer to enjoy such recognition was Martha Graham, who partnered with Aaron Copland in 1944 to produce Appalachian Spring.
Buraczeski's belief is that true jazz dance should be linked to authentic jazz music and to the traditions of the cakewalk, Charleston and lindy hop (or swing). This differentiates him from typical jazz choreographers, whose spandex aesthetics make them more appropriate for MTV than for serious concert dance. But while Buraczeski is a confirmed classicist, he's hardly highbrow. He understands audience dynamics, and crafts dances that are both entertaining and accessible. Even though his star is still rising, there is little doubt that the artist will look back fondly at 1995. It was, after all, a very good year.
Joan Freese is a Minneapolis writer and frequent contributor to City Pages.
by Simon Peter Groebner
1995 was the year the world finally began to notice Jim Ruiz. The Legendary Jim Ruiz Group--Jim, his wife Stephanie, his brother Chris, and assorted backup--began the year playing their jazzy, poppy urban fables in quiet local obscurity; the year ended with national press and a tour of Japan.
It was also the year for those zany cocktail parties to come back in vogue. But although I did hear the band's music at two semi-formals, call this trend a coincidence. Jim Ruiz is no saucy, swingin', heartbreakin' lounge singer. He's more apt to disarm the Cocktail Nation's cool detachment with his genuine, awkward modesty. Oh Brother Where Art Thou? defines a decade of Ruiz's life -- from his wilder days as bassist for Ed Ackerson's mod band the Dig, to the painful "streetside accident" in which he lost original fiancée Rena Erickson, to the eventual triumph of his marriage, life, and music.
Still, Ruiz isn't big on self-promotion, and is remarkably shy about hometown success. The sharpest Ruiz Group show I saw this year was actually at the Fez in New York City. Ruiz wore a white tuxedo, and they debuted a song called "Bobby Stinson's Guitar," about a used instrument that now belongs to Ruiz. It's maybe the best tribute I've heard to the fallen Replacement, and the packed house was transfixed. Now when can we get a feeling like that back at home? I'm betting it's only a matter of time.
Simon Peter Groebner cohosts "Off the Record" for Radio K and writes on local music for City Pages.
JAY FARRAR AND JEFF TWEEDY
by Laura Sinagra
It's been the perfect metaphor for the perfect breakup. Far from one of those bloodless "amicable" splits, the Uncle Tupelo dissolution has packed some tasty drama while avoiding any embarrassing acrimony--a lesson to us all about picking up and moving on. Productivity has defined the course this year for the country/post-punkers, who toured with new bands for spillover crowds, capitalizing on their individual strengths and quelling disputes over who was the Batman and who the Robin of the former outfit (though it seems everybody's got an opinion). And while jovial Jeff Tweedy's Wilco ("will comply") won the initial sprint with their fresh pop blast A.M., Farrar's fall release with his band Son Volt, Trace, proved well worth the wait, playing nighttime reflection to Tweedy's morning rollick.
Of course, Farrar (who has pared his crew down to drums by close friend and original UT member Mike Heidorn and beautiful bass and multi-instrumentals by the local Boquist brothers) has always found poetry--however bleak--in the factory belt, scraping elemental lyricism from rust, nicotine and waiting, big machines and flat expanses. Tweedy (who has expanded into Golden Smog's Jayhawkery and other high-profile chumming) has spun gold from a rocking tunesmithery that always relied more on energy than empathy. As such, this year saw the fully actualized best of what infused Uncle Tupelo with its trademark tension. But as with many splitting couples, what the two consider irreconcilable differences seem, to the outsider, outweighed by complementary sympathies. From cover art to covered issues, both Trace and A.M. betray nostalgia for the warm old analog days, a sweet affection for lonely instruments, redemption in recording, communication, creation. A reunion down the line? In light of the powerful selves here, it's an overwhelming prospect.
Laura Sinagra is a Minneapolis writer and frequent contributor to City Pages.
by Carolyn Kuebler
It took a long time for Rikki Ducornet's writing to get noticed here in the States. But it took a long time for her to get back here herself, having lived in Canada, Algeria, and France for more than 20 years. Most of her books--novels, poetry, short fiction, illustrations--were published by small British and Canadian presses, and found a devoted following before they were picked up by the likes of City Lights and Dalkey Archive Press. Now all of her fiction is in print in the United States and, especially this year, finding public acclaim.
The Stain, the first novel of her Tetralogy of Elements, was reprinted in conjunction with her latest work of fiction, Phosphor in Dreamland, which was reviewed in more than a dozen national publications and made Publishers Weekly's top 25 list. Phosphor, an epistolary history of the Caribbean island of Birdland, is perhaps the most apocalyptic of Ducornet's novels; at the same time it is an exuberant love story about the title character, a club-footed inventor-poet. Bound up together in all of her bawdy, surreal, and transcendent fiction are disparate worlds of reality and imagination, storytelling, politics, and poetry. In Phosphor, I found myself underlining a passage that's indicative of her approach to writing: "Phosphor realized ... that words are the vehicles of meaning and intention, not things to be sent buzzing in the void in order to fill it with a digressive, numbing hum, but particles of meaning, interactive and necessary." Ducornet may live in the strip-malled and smog-infested city of Denver, but it seems more accurate to say that she inhabits the images of her stereoscope, her lucid dreams of Paris and Chiapas, and the strokes of her own handwritten novels.
Carolyn Kuebler is a Minneapolis writer and coeditor of the Rain Taxi Review of Books.
SHANA KAPLOW AND MICHAEL RATHBUN
by David Lefkowitz
1995 may go down as the year in which cyberspace became the new frontier of the cutting-edge artist. As such, painting and sculpture were eulogized yet again in the wake of supposedly more egalitarian, more flexible, and just plain better and cooler new technology. So it was heartening to encounter work in more traditional media that can still command attention and engender experience that is at once visceral and intellectual.
Two particular exhibits in the Twin Cities in the past year were just such encounters. Shana Kaplow's paintings of discrete body parts on hand-cut, slightly irregular wood panels are ironically unified and complete; we reconstruct these partial gestures according to our own knowledge and experience of the human animal. By focusing on the body in a way that is at once clinical and lyrical, Kaplow somehow manages to express both how commonplace and how amazing our existence is. Moreover, an adequate experience of these pieces is only possible in real space. A reproduction, on a postcard or online, can only hint at what the paintings clearly convey.
For his installation at the Soap Factory, N44 58.961' W93 14.982', Michael Rathbun used a single basic material, raw pine, to construct a large, ship-like form which plows through wooden waves with absurdly oversized and unwieldy oars. The huge structure of blonde lumber trapped in the dark gray confines of the equally raw warehouse space was as "interactive" as anything I've seen on the Web. This fantastic ship-in-a-room embodies a paradox of motion and stasis, and a slow, considered walk on its gently sloping planks offers a constantly shifting perspective.
For all the possibilities of cyberspace, it's not a panacea for creativity. As long as our brains rely on our bodies to gather information, plastic forms will continue to inspire awe and reflection. Kaplow and Rathbun convey that message as articulately, and evocatively, as any artists anywhere today.
David Lefkowitz is a Minneapolis painter and writer.
by Howard Hampton
Sally Timms's deceptively modest album To the Land of Milk and Honey (on Chicago's tiny Feel Good All Over label) might be the soundtrack to an allusive montage of film clips: "Round up the usual suspects," it begins, ironic images of the past displacing the impoverished present, mocking a passionless era. Her journey is composed of slow tracking shots, tight close-ups, lingering fades to black. "There'll be silence from now on," she sings of a new age that lulls us with its litany of horrors--the endless sleep of shock treatment and wet dreams. Here the stolen reverie of John Cale's "Half Past France" (the vintage violence of uncounted '40s spy thrillers reduced to nervous small talk and brutal epigrams) melts into Jackie DeShannon's "Everytime She Walks in the Room," performed as though it held the key to all the unrequited desires of the '60s. In "King Ludwig," letter bombs travel by carrier pigeon and the Grateful Dead play at the behest of the Czar. "It Says Here" is also a letter to--or from--another time, doubling back its own meanings like Chris Marker's video missives in The Last Bolshevik.
And then there is "Longing, Madness and Lust": dulcet tones against an irresistible beat, a language of unreconstructed defiance in the face of desperate odds. As radiantly bitter as the Sandy Denny of "Genesis Hall" (Fairport Convention) or the Ulrike Meinhof of "Did She Jump or Was She Pushed?" (Baader-Meinhof Gang), Timms plunges into that abyss where life waits in exile. "A poor girl makes love, a rich man is shot," she sings with her finger on both triggers; "I will pump meaning into your dreams." You could listen to that line from here to eternity and never exhaust the audacity and resolve behind it.
Howard Hampton writes for Film Comment.
by Phil Anderson
Was Buster Keaton--who would have turned 100 this year--the "silent Jim Carrey" or the Great American Loner? Should we know him as the guy who gave Woody Allen the basic gimmick in The Purple Rose of Cairo? Was he a quintessential victim of child abuse? Was he an inventor, artist, poet, and performer to rival Edison, Rube Goldberg, Sam Beckett, or Baryshnikov? Around Keaton's birthday (October 4), it got to the point where I was seeing him everywhere--not just in elegant little profiles in toney magazines, but even in a car-collector's magazine I found in a waiting room, which featured a memoir about him and his jazzy old roadster.
Maybe Keaton's Stone Face persona invited all this; he was, after all, a pretty basic guy. A pratfall perfectionist who didn't really go to school, he loved gadgets so much he saw the poetry in them. Eventually he was a betrayed drunk who escaped the bottle and lived to have a cozy and--just barely--distinguished retirement before his death in 1966. He was aware before he died that deep thinkers wanted to plug him into some slots he'd never heard of, and he had a ready opinion about "that genius bullshit."
But just look at one of his movies--even those humble little shorts, like One Week, The Electric House or The Playhouse. This stiff yet graceful little man is up against a building or a machine (including the projector itself), and what he does with it is mess with it like he's playing a tune or squeezing clay. Keaton's approach to big, mechanical things speaks volumes about a century almost ending, when machines (even ones with no visible moving parts) have taken such an enormous role in our lives. For Keaton, the constructed environment--even if it was a motorcycle passing a sedan, two convenient perches for a mid-street change in transportation--was a Goliath and he conquered it constantly.
He conquered it with his own hybrid movie structure, something between a flow chart and a choreographic diagram. Not speaking and not smiling, he made movement and interrelated movement his art form. (Speed had nothing on this guy.) Revealingly, in his retirement Keaton built a model train layout that was essentially his biography, each little stop a mini version of a place he had lived or worked. He expressed his thoughts with concrete things and acts. You can't get more American than that.
So why is a dead guy who never spoke worth celebrating when he didn't do anything this year? Because Buster Keaton still reigns as an exemplar; Costner and Schwarzenegger and Steve Martin and Van Damme and the kung fu specialists of John Woo or Jackie Chan owe him enormous debts. Keaton knew how to fuse action into comedy and even drama and still keep it gracefully casual, and he didn't telegraph his big. Maybe this is the year people finally figured out he was a permanent landmark, and a perpetual benchmark. So if our current action/comedy artists admit he came before, they're princes. If they ignore him they're the blunt, boring fools they seem to be.
Phil Anderson is a Minneapolis writer and frequent contributor to City Pages.
by Jim Meyer
In a year when professional sports went berserk, local fans heard a voice of common sense from The Common Man, a.k.a. Dan Cole, KFAN's night shift host. From 6 to 9 p.m., Cole rallies the huddled masses not just by serving up the usual bash-and-trash claptrap, but some things that are far more subversive: brotherhood, and a welcome sense of perspective.
While bylined big shots like Dan Barreiro and Tom Powers whine for the Winnipeg Jets or analyze the Gophers-Badgers football score with the gravity of World War II generals, Cole calls a bore a bore and moves on to more interesting topics--usually himself, or his listeners. But whereas many other jock-talkers berate their callers to inflate their own low self-esteem (or to offset their lack of agility), the Common Man is also a compassionate man, and a humble guy to boot. "You're my guy," he tells outgoing callers; "I like the way you think," he says to a guy who suggests NFL underdogs should actually get additional points just to make the game more exciting.
See, Cole knows that real-life excitement is a far greater goal than cheering some meaningless touchdown and the camera-ready chicken dance that inevitably follows. And while most of the nation retreats to e-mail networks and shops for home security systems, Cole arranges golf foursomes and poker parties over the air with kind strangers and distant acquaintances. He'll even broadcast his voice-mail number if it means a cheap thrill in the near future, or two more bodies at his Monday Night Football tour of Ground Round restaurants in the metropolitan area, where common guys gather to laugh at Cole, at life, and at themselves.
Not only does Cole remember "it's just a game," but he understands instinctively that the same is said of life itself, and that the "players" Shakespeare refers to are the ones worth keeping track of. On KFAN, Cole creates a populist kind of power that's greater than the whole NFL put together. That's just one reason why he's my guy.
Jim Meyer is a Minneapolis writer and frequent contributor to City Pages.
by Joshua Glenn
Cartoonist Chris Ware would probably rank as one of the best in the business for his technical prowess alone. But this year, Sparky's Best Comics and Stories and Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid on Earth--two oddly shaped, meticulously crafted glossy volumes from his faux-retro Acme Novelty Library (published by Fantagraphics Books)--showed that he's at the top of the game by any standard.
The tiny superhero flying between strands of filigree on Sparky's front cover shows up inside looming behind the panels of several tiny, wordless, '30s-style strips in which the misadventures of a mouse and a bodiless cat's head are almost algebraically arranged. Arrows direct your reading in unexpected directions; panels pile up upon each other and then come tumbling down. In some strips, black-and-white panels are superimposed over gray-washed landscapes; in others, garish out-of-focus pastels dominate. Several beautiful Fluxus-style stories about the doomed love between a two-headed mouse and a suicidal cat round out a surreal jigsaw puzzle of a comic book.
Jimmy Corrigan is, as its cover puts it, "First in a Series of Fancy Pocket-Sized Chapters Which, When Properly Arranged, Will Concrete One of the Most Festive and Rompish Simulacra Ever Witnessed in This Juvenile and Trashy Medium." Here, Corrigan is a pathetic older man lost somewhere between his real life and his memories or fantasies, in which he's both a baroque robot and a farmboy trying to escape his murderous dad. In the best tradition of magical realism, when we see Jimmy kill his equally pathetic father--we're just not sure if it actually happened or not. Ware is onto something big here: Like R. Crumb or Daniel Clowes, he is taking this "juvenile and trashy medium" to complex new heights.
Joshua Glenn is Associate Editor at Utne Reader.
MARY LEE HARDENBERGH
by Camille LeFevre
One of a handful of American choreographers working in the realm of site-specific dance, Mary Lee Hardenbergh occupies a singular niche.
Her stage is the built environment--the Duluth aerial bridge, mooring cells in the Mississippi River, the plaza fronting the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, the Minneapolis Farmers' Market, the balconies of the Opus Building. In these urban settings--places of steel, cement and glass--she coordinates the efforts of blue-collar workers, bureaucracy, and dancers with machines, natural elements, color, and rhythm to create works equal parts dada, ritual, and celebration.
On September 8, Hardenbergh pushed herself in a slightly new direction, creating a work at the Seneca Wastewater Treatment Plant that involved more audience participation and environmental education. Walking past gargantuan vats bubbling with smelly sludge while brightly clad dancers leapt, turned and swayed, the audience got to ponder which was the greater art: this miracle of modern science, or the dance that celebrates it. Always occurring on a solstice or equinox, with the full moon as part of the finale, Hardenbergh's work also serves to inject our secular culture with a healthy dose of paganism, while connecting us with a renewed sense of place and the feeling, once more, that we're a community.
Camille LeFevre is a St. Paul writer and frequent contributor to City Pages.
by Roni Sarig
From down here in South Carolina, it looks like just about everyone surrounding the Shannon Faulkner/Citadel case should be an Artist Of The Year for their dazzling display of symbolism over substance. During her two-year fight for acceptance into Charleston's venerable male-only military academy, the would-be coed became a pawn in an oh-so-'90s struggle between the myopic and the misguided. On the right: the Citadel brass, the Limbaugh Youth cadets, and the "Save the Males" coalition--all united for what they convinced themselves was an issue of "single gender education" and not just another knee-jerk reaction against those countercultural equal rights principles of the '60s. On the left: Faulkner's lawyers and the usual women's advocacy organizations, who got all swept up in using Faulkner as a poster child for girls' absolute right to educational opportunity, but lost sight that the issue here was one of equal access due to merit, not of just crashing the good ol' boys' party.
When Faulkner dropped out in her first week of rigorous military training due to the intense pressure from one side and lack of support from the other (not to mention the fact that she hadn't bothered to stay in the necessary physical shape while busy playing feminist icon) both sides declared victory and made asses of themselves equally. The left said the important point was their legal victory, which is like claiming less qualified minority workers as a victory for affirmative action. The right, especially the cadets, proved themselves to be most ungentlemanly by celebrating Faulkner's resignation as if some grand ideological position had been affirmed. Now the real race is on: Will the Citadel set up a "separate-but-equal" women's military program somewhere else before one of many more qualified females pulls a more authentic Jackie Robinson, not only breaking the barrier but excelling once through?
Roni Sarig is a Charleston, South Carolina writer.
by Hal Niedzviecki
Case is a neo-traditional hymnologist who sings the gospel of what might longingly be called "old country." His new album, Torn Again, marks his maturation from tormented pop artist to American expressionist, one who is pulled between the need to relate what there is and what there has to be. Case's lyrical elegies to hope are so true in their despair that each song becomes a minor tribute to possibility.
But Case is more than just a white-boy troubadour paying lip service to the plight of a people caught in the steel-trap of fate. Here is a man who emerges from the morass of the Nashville assembly line to recall the great and not yet lost tradition of American songwriters. Witness his recent work, not just on Torn Again, but on Sings Like Hell, and the hauntingly apt "A Working Man Can't Get Nowhere Today"from Tulare Dust, a fine multi-artist tribute to Merle Haggard. On all these releases, Case reclaims the vitality of country music, recasting traditional tunes and infusing the past with his own sense of future.
A perfectionist who makes mistakes, a singer guilty of the occasional poor rhyme or creaky high note, a pop 'star' who sings about sex and love and knows they aren't the same, Peter Case documents that mercurial year numbered 1995 as one of perfect failure, a year he describes in song as "a whole world turning blue." We need more artists like Case, down-home superstars of the psyche who can take a year's worth of artifice and make it real.
Hal Niedzviecki is a Toronto writer.
by Joyce Turi
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